The state of New York on Sunday sued film producer Harvey Weinstein and his former company for years of sexual harassment and misconduct with employees, Reuters reported. After a four-month investigation into the allegations against Weinstein, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said employees of The Weinstein Company had faced “pervasive sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination”.
In response, Weinstein’s lawyer Ben Brafman said the inquiry would show that many of the allegations against the producer were unmerited.
Citing violations of state civil and human rights laws, the lawsuit alleged that the company’s executives and board repeatedly failed to protect employees from Weinstein.
The lawsuit also named Weinstein’s brother Bob, who co-founded The Weinstein Company. Bob Weinstein was aware of his brother’s behaviour but failed to maintain “a safe workplace free of sexual harassment and other unlawful conduct”, the lawsuit said.
The suit also said Harvey Weinstein had threatened to kill employees and their families, and he used female employees to “facilitate sexual conquests of vulnerable women”, NBC reported.
Investigations by the the New Yorker and the New York Times in October revealed that Weinstein had been sexually assaulting women for over three decades. Soon, numerous women from within and outside the film industry accused him of sexual crimes. He was removed from his position at The Weinstein Company and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thereafter.
Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone. He has not been charged for any crime yet.
“While Mr Weinstein’s behaviour was not without fault, there certainly was no criminality, and at the end of the inquiry it will be clear that Harvey Weinstein promoted more women to key executive positions than any other industry leader and there was zero discrimination at either Miramax or TWC,” his lawyer Brafman claimed.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of talks about the sale of The Weinstein Company. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he sued the company on Sunday partially because of reports indicating that the studio could be sold to a group of investors led by former Obama administration official Maria Contreras-Sweet.
“Any sale of The Weinstein Company must ensure that victims will be compensated, employees will be protected going forward, and that neither perpetrators nor enablers will be unjustly enriched,” Schneiderman said. The amount of restitution, damages and penalties being sought has not been disclosed.
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, the board of The Weinstein Company said: “Many of the allegations relating to the board are inaccurate and the board looks forward to bringing the facts to light as part of its ongoing commitment to resolve this difficult situation in the most appropriate way.”